Hearty Cabbage Casserole

Classic Chinese Stew 

Six Servings

This soup is a simplified version of a Chinese classic Lion’s Head Stew. Four cabbage outer leaves are reserved and placed over the top of the soup. Once cooked, the browned leaves are said to resemble a lion’s mane.

6 cups chicken broth (If using canned, use low-salt)
½ cup rice wine or sake
4 slices fresh ginger, smashed with the flat edge of a knife
1 medium head Chinese Napa cabbage (about 1 to 1 ½ pounds )
1 tablespoon olive or corn oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife or cleaver
1 pound lean ground pork

Seasonings:
1 ½ cups minced scallion greens
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or sake
1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste

  1. Cut away the stem of the cabbage and discard. Remove and reserve four of the outermost leaves. Cut the remaining cabbage in half and cut the leaves into 2-inch squares, separating the leafy sections from the stem pieces.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or a covered casserole, add 1 teaspoon of oil and heat until very hot, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic cloves and stem sections cabbage sections and stir-fry for 30 seconds over medium-high heat. Add the rice wine and toss lightly; cover and cook for 1 ½ minutes. Uncover, add the remaining cabbage sections and the chicken broth. Partially cover, and once the soup reaches a boil, uncover, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. While the soup is cooking, put the ground pork, and Seasonings in a bowl. Mix with your hands to combine the ingredients evenly, then shape into 6 plump oval-shapes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a wok or a skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and heat until very hot. Place the meatballs in the pan and sear until golden brown over high heat; then turn them over and sear on the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place the meatballs in the center of the cabbage soup. Cover with the four reserved leaves to create an attractive presentation. Replace the lid and put the casserole in the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Gently stir in the soy sauce and salt to taste and ladle into soup bowls. Serve immediately, taking a little cabbage and broth with each serving.

© 2008 Nina Simonds

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